Johnson Set to Tackle Tricky Texas
By: Pete Pistone - @PPistone | MRN.com on April 8, 2017 | 10:15 A.M. EST
Jimmie Johnson will have to overcome a brand new layout and configuration, and a deep starting position, if he wants to win his seventh career Texas Motor Speedway Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race. (Photo: Getty Images)
Jimmie Johnson will have to overcome a brand new layout and configuration, and a deep starting position, if he wants to win his seventh career Texas Motor Speedway Monster Energy NASCAR Cup Series race.
The Hendrick Motorsports driver has been victorious six times in his MENCS career at the 1.5-mile track - all from a top-10 starting position - with his first trip to Victory Lane coming in 2007. His record includes three straight wins over the 2014-15 seasons.
But that success came on the track’s old layout. This weekend’s O’Reilly Auto Parts 500 will be run on a brand new surface with additional reconfiguration taking place in the first and second turns.
Despite the changes, Johnson is trying not to worry too much about what lies ahead and views the situation as one that is part of being a veteran in the sport.
“I know Phoenix the repave and reconfiguration certainly brought me some heartburn,” Johnson said. “I guess maybe I learned my lesson then that I can’t do much about it. And at 16 years in the sport I’m at a point where a lot of these surfaces are going to change.
“Just comes with the territory. I haven’t thought much about this one, but the Phoenix repave definitely messed with my mojo for a while.”
Johnson’s mojo has been off by his standards in the early part of 2017. He enters the season’s seventh race 14th in the standings with only one top-10. He’s hoping to get things headed back in an upward direction this weekend while at the same time navigating around the new Texas.
“I think in (Turns) 3 and 4 it’s pretty straight forward where we will run,” Johnson explained when asked his approach to running this weekend. “Over here (pointing to Turns 1 and 2) I don’t know if we are going to run the bottom. From going into the corner and where all that real estate now is in that low lane, it’s a pretty big transition off the straightaway to get down there.
“So, just trial and error, we will go out there and find visual reference points on the wall and use that as a lift point, judge how that corner went maybe a little further. I guess, maybe one of the basic things that we will do is look for visual reference points and systematically work our way up to speed. From lift points, braking points and also back to gas points around the track.”
Speaking of Turns 1 and 2, Johnson spun there when he was letting off the throttle following his qualifying run on Friday.
“I think we used up all our good luck at Homestead last year," Johnson said. "When I dumped out of the throttle it pitched the car sideways and I started chasing it going into the turn. I thought I had it saved and then I got into all those marbles and kept getting closer to the wall and spun. So, we have three flat-spotted tires."
Despite the somewhat slow start and the challenges this weekend in Texas, Johnson remains confident he can rise to the occasion and bring home Texas win number seven on Sunday.
“I have it in me, but I think it’s a clean sheet of paper,” he said. “You can’t pick a favorite right now. Anytime there is a reconfiguration, a new asphalt it’s a total game changer. All of past history is now out the window and it’s like we are coming here for the first time.”